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Albuquerque Educates: The New Mexico Natural History Museum

By Courtney Clark

The New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science in Albuquerque was created in order to bring New Mexico's natural history back to New Mexico. Spokesman Randall Gann says that before the museum, visitors looking to learn more about New Mexico's past had to travel to other states and even other countries. Dinosaur fossils were found in the state but not displayed there. Now, Albuquerque has its own center for children and adults to learn through the Museum's many exhibits and programs.

Natural history encompasses geology, paleontology, and biology. The vision of the Museum is to "inspire a greater appreciation, understanding and stewardship of science and our natural world." This inspiration begins before visitors walk through the front doors. Two entrance dinosaurs, Spike and Alberta, welcome museum attendees. The sculptures, cast in bronze by Dave Thomas, are life-sized and prepare attendees for the more thorough exhibits inside.

The New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science is the only place where three exhibit halls are dedicated to all three time periods of the dinosaur ages. One newly popular exhibit is T. Rex Attack! Located in the museum atrium, the exhibit is of Stan the Tyrannosaurus rex. Stan is the second largest T. rex ever found and is displayed in full attack mode. Although Stan was not discovered in New Mexico, several dinosaur fossils have been found throughout the state from Deming to Raton, with the most complete fossils discovered in the San Juan Basin. The Museum's FossilWorks exhibit shows guests how fossils are extracted.

The Museum exhibits much more than just dinosaurs. Timetracks: A Walk through Time exhibits Earth's history from its origin to present day. This exhibit begins with Origins. According to the website, visitors can "touch a meteorite, examine some of Earth's oldest rocks, and discover fossils." Fast forward a few million years to the Age of Volcanoes, where guests walk through a magma chamber to view gems and minerals, learning about volcanic processes along the way. New Mexico's Ice Age is last in the walk. It teaches attendees about the Quaternary Period, which traces history from almost two million years ago to the present day. Learn about "dire wolves, giant mammoths, saber-tooth cats, and New Mexico's last camel in this colorful exhibit."

Beyond the permanent exhibits at the Museum, there are temporary exhibitions, which may come from New Mexico or from across the world. The Museum also offers several online exhibits and activities for visitors who want to learn more about New Mexico's natural history. As the Museum's mission statement says, the center "preserves and interprets the distinctive natural and scientific heritage of our state through our extraordinary collections, research, exhibits and programs designed to ignite a passion for lifelong learning."

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About The Author

Courtney Clark graduated from Flagler College with a BA in English and Creative...

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